Military doctors and the ethical questions that they face

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In 2005, pictures were released from Abu Ghraib, a prison in Iraq, showing prisoners of war being abused. In further investigations it was found that military doctors knew of the abuse that was going on and some doctors had even helped cover up or inflict the torture themselves. Other doctors have even helped interrogators develop interrogation tactics using the prisoner's medical information. Some medics refuse to intervene. For example, Navy Medic Petty Officer Carlton Blay watched a guard slap and punch many of the prisoners at Camp Whitehorse in Iraq, but did not stop or report these abuses because he believed that these beatings were reasonable to let prisoner know that "these people were in charge".

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As I researched more and more into the Abu Ghraib scandals, I was stunned. The details were shocking, but what haunted me and the rest of the world is if doctors, people who swore and dedicated their lives to protecting others, are capable of letting prison guards get away with torturing captives, violating human rights, and even murdering prisoners, then what else are doctors capable of?


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This is such an interesting topic you blogged about. I have never understood what drives individuals to torture others to the extent that has been done in the past. I am appalled at the way prisoners of the United States are treated. What is the benefit of torturing them within an inch of their lives? What is that accomplishing? I especially like the doctor tie you brought in---I want to be a doctor someday, so this hits close to home. I agree with the fact that you brought up the oath and what does that really mean to them then?

Interesting post. As I was reading your post I couldn't help but think of the movie Unthinkable starring Samuel L Jackson, it deals with this very topic, it's a pretty good film. As far as to torture to just mame and dehumanize a prisoner I totally disagree with, but if torture is necessary to get information that could help save others lives (like a immanent terrorist attack) then it can become a thin line. Alot of the time this stuff goes without public outcry, because the media has desensitized these individuals to us. Instead of saying "We are investigating rumors of U.S. troops having tortured civilians, brothers, husbands and fathers in Abu Ghraib", the blow is less personal to us if the media says "U.S. troops are suspected in torturing prisoners, terrorists in Abu Ghraib." One last note, remember "some" of these people who have been locked up here have been there for almost a decade or more without any trial, court tribunal and/or proof of guilt. Remember also that doctors have been placed on a pedestal in our society we must remember doctors are only human (its no different than other profession) and prone to make mistakes like we all do...:)

Interesting post. It reminded me of the scandal at Penn Sate. In a nutshell, one of the football assistants sexually assaulted young boys while working under the facilities. Supposedly the head coach and higher ups had heard to an extent the accusations however did not call the police for further investigation. The media ripped apart the coach, Joe Paterno and the Penn State staff for not demonstrating further action. In both cases bystanders stood by while terrible actions were taking place.
What happened in Iraq and Penn State are both absolutely terrible. However, I think bystanders are sometimes pinned with excess and unfair blame. It’s always easier to judge others from the position were in. However it's much harder to look through the opposing perspective. The doctors were placed in very strenuous situations. Overall, (myself included) we tend to believe that only others, but not ourselves, are vulnerable to social influence. We should be careful not to commit the fundamental attribution error and we should always consider situational influences. In my opinion, the doctors serving in Iraq were ethical, brave, hardworking people who were put into difficult situations. There is always two sides to a story and I think, before we condemn anybody, we should take a moment to see where their coming As the saying goes, you''l never really know someone before you put yourself in their shoes and walk around in them.

Thanks for all the comments. I really like hearing what others think about this extremely controversial topic.

It is indeed a thin line that these doctors and military personals walk on. How can we ever justify torturing someone in order to save other innocent people? I think we can't ever justify this. But, it seems to me that a lot of people view this debate as which action is the lesser of two evils? As for me, I don't endorse torture in any means. A person is a person and a evil/bad person is still human after all.

My motive for writing this is not to condemn anyone because like the well known quote states, "Never judge a man unless you've walked in his shoes," I don't believe that anyone can judge these people for what they have done under those terrible conditions. There are so many more factors that contributed to what happened in Abu Ghraib.

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This page contains a single entry by sunxx592 published on November 30, 2011 7:19 PM.

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